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Solomon is my main stud. He’s five, large but proven by consistently running — and finishing — on top five teams in the Iditarod and Yukon Quest over the last three years. He’s been a key player on my 3rd-place Yukon Quest team in 2009, and went on to finish with Jeff King that same year. He also ran with King in 2008, on both the Iditarod and All Alaska Sweepstakes. This year, Sebastian Schnuelle had Solomon on his team. This is what he had to say…
“Solomon is one of the best sled dogs I have ever run. It is his drive which makes him so special. Even after the toughest 100 mile run, he is still lunging to go. Doing the EKG work before Iditarod, the first thing they asked me was: ‘This dog never gets tired, does he?’ His drive combined with his size of 76 lbs made him one of the key dogs in my team.”
Yes, he weighs in at 76 pounds, but the five-year-old runs so smoothly and eats so well and has never had a single injury. I’m also seriously impressed with his puppies. I split five litters with Jeff King a couple of years ago, and spent this past winter running them as a single team, with a couple of older leaders. They completed the Knik 200 and Tustumena 200 without a single one being dropped. They ran well, several ran in lead (one for 100 miles in the T200) and — like their father — ate like pigs.
Solomon’s assets are his attitude and his appetite.
For those interested in bloodlines, his ancestors have a lot of Bill Cotter’s seminal dog Baileys on both sides, many times over. And his grandfather is a dog named Doc, who is the father of Lance Mackey‘s legendary stud, Zorro.
He’s available to stud for $600. He’s back home with me now in Kasilof.
Another dog that I like is another guy with a lot of Doc in his bloodlines — my lead dog, Panther. Panther is about 60 pounds and is quieter by nature. He’s very willing to run in lead, and his grandmother (on both sides) is my favorite leader from a few years ago, a dog named Kazan, who was a sister to Doc.
Kazan was a hard-driving leader and Panther takes after her. He can be up front for hundreds of miles. His father was one of Mitch Seavey‘s dogs from the bloodline that is the core of Seavey’s racing kennel.
He ran for me in the 2003 Yukon Quest, and he ran the Quest and Iditarod back-to-back with Zack Steer this year. Steer used Panther in lead from the start of the Quest until Pelly, and Panther led for him in rotation during the Iditarod as well. Steer said Panther sped up his team, almost to a fault.
I have 10-month-old pups out of Panther and another dog of mine, Adidas (who ran Quest with Steer and Iditarod with King two years ago), and they’re looking just right and doing fine for their age.
Stud fee for Panther is $500.
If you want a pure athletic bloodline grafted into your kennel, and want dogs with high attitude, friendly dispositions and insane appetites, Solomon is a great risk. But if you want a hard-nosed leader with speed, who also produces easy going and like-able pups, Panther is a good bet. Solomon has the better appetite; Panther is a serious lead dog.
Reach me by email, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve got a new forum for my race blog, with my take on what’s happening in the Yukon Quest and Iditarod, and maybe even Denali Doubles. Here’s the link…
On Halloween, I tested the waters as a dog “driving instructor,” giving a one-on-one seminar on how to camp with a dog team. The class went so well that I’m considering opening it up to anyone interested in becoming more efficient or just gaining confidence in taking a trail break, whether inside or outside of checkpoints.
I sat down with the musher for two hours on the night of the 30th, going over what she knew and what she needed to learn. And the next day, she was on her own to pack her supplies (cooker, straw, booties, etc.), and head out on a training run to a spot where I could meet her. She set about doing all the routine dog duties while I watched and we talked about her routine. After a two-hour pitstop, she turned her team around and drove them back to her dog truck.
UPDATE — Change of plans. Most of my adult dogs are going to run with other teams in the Iditarod and Quest this year. I’m focusing my winter on some very promising yearlings, led by three or four older vets. More posts coming soon, since the season is now under way…
The Iditarod is only about a third over, or less, by now, but mushers are beginning their push to find a spot to take their 24-hour layovers. By far, the two most popular locations are McGrath and Takotna, with Iditarod a distant third — a location chosen by only the most driven and determined competitors willing to gamble a few more long runs with the hope that it will translate into a strong surge up the Yukon River.
A big thank you to Mike and Lori for the hard work handling the dogs and me over the past couple of weeks. They got worked over in this race, which requires a lot out of the handlers. And they turned this blog into a handlers’ blog, which by the way happened to spike way up in hits while they were making their posts.
Here are the promised pictures, from getting the truck fixed in Whitehorse to the end of the race. Jon came in a strong third, and it’s been a great race!
Our saga with the truck continued for a long 36 hours or so, but we finally solved all of our mechanical problems (knock on wood). With invaluable help from the wonderful Ron, we visited and/or called every parts store in Whitehorse. Without going into all of the gory automotive details, the truck’s past life was as a fleet vehicle on the North Slope, and so the view under the hood is frankly a bit odd. The proper parts were hard to find, and we had to beg for a lot of favors. Ellory the Ford dealership parts man came in on his day off to supply us with a new tensioner, and Jason Anderson, a mechanic with Capital Towing, spent hours helping us rig a belt system. Thanks once again to both of them!
Meanwhile, Mike Davis and Jan stepped graciously into the role of handler. This is what Mike had to say about their handling stint:
“Spoon-feeding Jon small bits of information to keep him informed, but not worrying about his truck. He took the involuntary substitution of his handlers well, and Jan and I have passed our first test – got one dropped dog (Bruno), all his leftover gear from Circle, and cleaned up his straw. We’re waiting on the dog dropped in Slaven’s to be flown in, then on to Central. We may not get there before Jon arrives, but we should before he leaves.
Jon’s team is looking pretty good. The oft-mentioned diarrhea (in news reports) is improving, but didn’t really seem to be affecting the dogs anyway. Jon is keeping one eye in front of him (he’s not conceded the first two places by any means) and one eye behind him. Weather is deteriorating over the two upcoming summits (we’re stuck on this side for probably another 24 hrs due to highway conditions), so expect folks in front to start moving even slower than expected as they climb. This could be an opportunity…….”
From our end, we left Whitehorse about a day and a half later than we wanted to, and drove like mad for Fairbanks. We missed the checkpoint at Circle, but we arrived in Central about ten minutes after Jon did. Jon was tired, but doing well. After leaving Central, he returned a few minutes later to drop another dog, Teton, who wasn’t pulling his weight. We also picked up the two dogs Jon had dropped in Eagle and Circle, Lobben and Bruno.
After Central, it is only thirty something miles to the dog drop at 101, but in between the two points is Eagle Summit, which is a long, grueling climb that can make or break a musher’s race. In 2005, Eagle Summit proved to be a major setback for Jon. His team rebelled partway up the enormous ascent, and he was forced to rest for hours before completing the climb.
This year, it went a little differently. All of the frontrunners were delayed for hours on Eagle Summit, due to a confusingly marked trail. Teams began arriving long after they were expected, only completing the climb after sunrise. Because of the delay, the first few teams are now much more closely clustered than they were before. Hugh Neff, Jon, and Sebastian Schnuelle all left 101 within an hour of each other (at 9, 9:35, and 10 respectively). At this point, it is a very tight race!
We have a few pictures from this leg of the race, which I will post as soon as I can.
After Jon left Dawson with a great looking team, Mike and I breathed a sigh of relief. Our 36 hours with the dogs were fun, but tiring. We were happy to see him off with the dogs looking good, and glad to get back on the road. Little did we realize, our (attempted) drive to the next checkpoint in Circle City would be anything but a chance to unwind.
For this leg of the journey, we were sharing our truck with two vet students trying to get back to Fairbanks. Up until a bit before Carmacks, everything seemed to be going smoothly. We had good company, good music, and we were making good time. However, less than half an hour outside of Carmacks, we began to smell the bad news. An aroma of burning rubber wafted through the truck. At Carmacks, we crossed our fingers and opened up the hood. The belt starting to shred, but it was still hanging on. We asked around, but there were no mechanics or parts in Carmacks. There was nowhere to go but forward — we were just praying we could limp it in to Whitehorse. We hoped that the belt had another couple hundred miles in it. It turned out to have less than 15.
As we drove out of Carmacks, the truck began to smell again. After a few minutes, Mike turned to me and said “well, there goes the power steering” and soon we were coasting to a halt in a snowbank on the side of the road. We had no parts and no phone service, but we managed to hitch a ride back into town. For the next hour or so, we camped out in a tiny grocery store, borrowed their phone, and started calling around. Any mechanics in Carmacks? No. Any parts in Carmacks? No. Triple A to the rescue? No, they couldn’t service our particular area. Could we get anything done in Whitehorse? Maybe… or maybe not, due to a civic holiday. Could we at least get the truck towed to Whitehorse? Yes, for 600 dollars. To state the obvious, none of these answers were very satisfactory.
After a frustratingly long time on the phone, on hold more than half of the time and listening to elevator music, we decided to call our amazing host family in Whitehorse. Ron answered the phone, and as soon as we explained our situation he jumped into action. Within an hour, he was on the way to rescue us in Carmacks with moral support and parts. In the meantime, Mike Davis showed up and took the vet students, who didn’t want to abandon us but were slightly alarmed by just how stuck we were turning out to be. Mike Davis told us that, if worst came to worst and we couldn’t make it to Circle, he could look after Jon in our place and pick up any dropped dogs. We thanked them for all their help, then saw them off.
There was nothing left to do but wait, so we spent the next few hours getting to know Carmacks better than we ever wanted to. We camped out in the Carmacks Hotel lobby, checked the race standings every few minutes, and worried. We were very excited when Ron showed up with the parts, and we headed out to fix the truck.
Of course, we were hoping it would be simple. I fed the dogs and took them for a walk, while Ron and Mike went to work on the belt. What initially looked like a quick fix became more and more complicated, and we found ourselves scratching our heads. To make matters more interesting, it started snowing and blowing. Car after car stopped to try to help us out, and pretty soon we had a whole bevy of aspiring mechanics. Gerry Willomitzer pulled over to assist us and so did another German team until about a third of our mechanical crew was speaking very fast German and pulling out tools. After a long, unsuccessful while one of them stood back and said “Scheize!” He turned to me. “That means shit.” I nodded — “I couldn’t agree with you more.”
Several hours later we were forced to admit defeat. There was no way to fit together the parts we had into any kind of working order. Gerry Willomitzer towed us to the next pull-out, and Ron loaded us and our wet, smelly dogs into his Prius and took us home. It was amazing to collapse into a real bed after a very long day.
This morning it’s been all coffee and phone calls. The truck is getting towed, and we are searching for parts and helpful people who are willing to give us a hand on a Saturday. We’ve had some success on both fronts, and if all goes well we should be on the road late this afternoon. We’re hoping to catch up with Jon at least by Central.
Huge thanks to Gerry Willomitzer, Mike Davis, and Ron Adams, and everyone who stopped and helped us out in Carmacks and on the road. We’re very grateful!
We’ll be heading into town in a few minutes, hoping to put the pieces all together. The moral of the story: handlers have adventures too.
Jon headed out of the Dawson restart at 10:50 this morning, the first musher to finish his mandatory rest. This is an important part of the race, a time when both dogs and mushers can rest and recuperate. We’ve spent the last 36 hours feeding, walking, and massaging dogs. We humans have been on a funky schedule — up every 6 hours for another round of dog care — but it has paid off. The team looks great. Jon is leaving one dog behind here, another tired two-year-old. It’s obvious that the rest of them are ready to be off — while walking them this morning I found myself digging in my heels to keep them from dragging me away. They are ready to race! Jon is too; we fed him lots of ice cream and sent him off for some nice, long sleep.
The race into Dawson was very close — if you want to read more about that, have a look at this article. http://channels.sudburydirect.info/websites/Fairbanks_Daily_News_Minor/